Now, where do we stand with regard to private apparitions? The Rad Trad asks because these apparitions have proliferated in the last two centuries and, with very few exceptions, all seem to follow a particular pattern: the Blessed Virgin Mary comes to someone young, tells him or her that God wants something to happen, there is a word about the Pope, and, sometimes, instructions to institute some sort of devotion on a specific day of the week or month.
A common feature of these apparitions is that people use them as banners for their own political causes or theological opinions. Case in point, Fatima. Everyone who has spent time with traditionalist Roman Catholics knows that a significant portion of them have a strong penchant for Fatima and has realized that the message of Fatima is somewhat fungible. Everyone from the respectable "indult" Mass goer to the FSSPX "hardliner" to the sedevacantist can reasonably lay claim the general points of Fatima, that God is punishing the Church by taking away the Mass for the failure of Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI etc. to compel the bishops of the world to do some sort of consecration regarding Russia. Traditionalists look to Fatima to explain bad bishops and the absence of 1962 Masses, but they are not alone in looking to Fatima. More mainstream Catholics occasionally countenance Fatima for violence in the world and the spread of Communism. Recently I was treated to an apocalyptic sermon by a Ukrainian deacon certain that Russia's theft of Crimea pointed to the immanence of the last days.
Another issue with these apparitions is that they can be coupled together to create new messages. Archbishop Lefebvre was fond of La Salette ("Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of anti-Christ") and his ordinand, Richard Williamson, favors Akita. To a baroque minded Roman Catholic the relationship between Fatima and La Salette would be self-evident: the Pope did not carry out the Russia request, so God has punished the Church by allowing Rome—and hence the Church, because in the baroque perspective there is little distinction on this matter—to lose the faith and the Mass. To a Ukrainian Catholic, or a Melkite, or someone with a medieval mindset this interpretation would not work. And to a mainstream Roman Catholic La Salette would be "approved," but also "far off" or "not happening now."
So which is it? Who is right? Are any of them right? Does it even matter to us? Opinions on the nature of apparitions even varies. The Church calls them "private" revelations because they are not part of the deposit of faith and because Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, who according to tradition was St. John the Evangelist. I have heard one priest say that while Fatima is optional, it is not really optional. Another took a middle ground, almost to say "Whatever helps you." Recently I was told of a very medieval priest named Ronald Silk who absolutely refused these sorts of devotional apparitions.
Some readers might be aware of a lesser known approved apparition in Knock, Ireland. It is compelling both in what it is and what it is not. As the story goes, a dozen or so people witnessed several radiant white figures: a lamb on a table-like altar with a cross behind it, and to the left Ss. Mary, Joseph, and John; moved, the seers prayed the Rosary in the rain for hours. No end times messages, no popes, no new devotions. Just prayer. Does the Rad Trad believe it? No idea, but the circumstances and non-message were certainly counter-cultural at the time.
One last time: where do we stand on this?